Polis proposes funding full-day kindergarten | PostIndependent.com

Polis proposes funding full-day kindergarten

Colorado Governor Jared Polis enters the House of Representatives chamber to make his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Colorado Legislature Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wants to use better-than-expected tax revenue to implement free full-day kindergarten.

Polis released a budget request Tuesday that includes $227 million so that all school districts can offer full-day kindergarten or stop charging families for it. He said many families pay up to $500 a month to enroll their children.

Polis told reporters it’s the top priority of his new administration and wants to make it available by this fall. The Democrat also insisted the plan is not a mandate for either parents or school districts.

Lawmakers must approve the request and enabling legislation.

Nearly 50,000 Colorado children attend full-time kindergarten, and 19,000 of them go for free, according to the state education department. Families pay for roughly 25,000 children to attend.

More than 13,000 children currently attend free part-time kindergarten.

Polis said his plan would allow an extra 13,000 children to attend full-day kindergarten. It also would free up $100 million that districts currently spend on full-day kindergarten for other educational purposes.

The governor requested nearly $26 million to implement the plan by this fall.

Polis said his plan would free up $100 million that districts currently spend on full-day kindergarten for other educational purposes.

The governor presents his proposal to the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Wednesday.

Polis’ budget request doesn’t depart radically from that of his predecessor, John Hickenlooper, whose November request for the fiscal year that starts next July 1 stressed the need to prepare for an eventual recession. Hickenlooper’s $33.4 billion request was nearly 5 percent, or about $1.5 billion, above the current budget.

Lawmakers will use the proposals to fashion a state budget for fiscal years 2019-2020.

Polis’ request keeps $121 million to hold tuition flat at Colorado’s state-run universities and colleges next year.

It also allocates seed money to create an Office of Saving Money on Healthcare, led by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera; $1.3 million to create a model for importing cheaper prescription drugs from Canada; and $1 million to create a state-run reinsurance program.

That program would be designed to help cover health care costs for patients with the highest expenses, inducing private insurers to lower their premiums for others in Colorado’s market.

Other proposals:

• $3 million to create a paid parental leave program for state workers. Democrats who control both chambers are working on an expanded program as well as paid family leave for private sector employees.

• Boosting to $1.8 million a request to add 16 employees to the state’s oil and gas regulatory body.

• Expand a program allowing immigrants who are in the country illegally to obtain or renew Colorado driver’s licenses.

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